JUNE 10, 2010

Joe (left), son of Michael, the director of Nehemiah House, is pictured with Genevieve, a resident at Nehemiah House.

A view from me to you: Part I

By Monique Judkins

   Many people express a desire to know how our missions’ trip to the Philippines went. It is difficult to explain completely because everyone wants to know different things; some want to know how the weather was, others want to know more about the orphanage and the kids. Some just want to know how I survived the journey.

   So after some thought, I decided the best way to tell the story of our mission trip would be to approach it from my journal. So here goes. I hope through this you can experience our journey through my eyes. This is part one of a series.

   Tuesday, April 20. Location: somewhere over the pacific. After a year of fundraising and preparation our team of five is finally on our way. I am not sure totally what to expect as I have never been to the Philippines and I don’t even know the people who run the orphanage call Nehemiah House. I feel I am somewhat prepared though because of the many years I have been doing short term missions.

   First of all, I know we will have a series of flights that will be torturous at best. We will travel for almost 24 hours and it will take us two days. (We lose a day as we travel across the time zones). I know the heat in the Philippines this time of year will be intense as well as the humility. I know that the people here will be very poor, health conditions as well as housing conditions are primitive and as such; my heart will break. Yet, I have peace. I know that nothing I fear cannot be overcome for God is with me. What these people endure daily I can endure for 11 days. I settle back in my seat and try to sleep.

   Thursday, April 22. Time: 5:45 a.m. Location: the Island of Mindanao, Philippines. We are finally here. We flew from Spokane to Seattle then on to Japan. From there we flew to Manila. Last, we had an island hop to the Island of Mindanao.

   We now call Cebu Pacific Airlines “Extortion Air.” They are the airline that we used to get us just the few hours over to the Island of Mindanao. They earned this nickname due to the fact that they charged us $14,000 pesos just to bring our bags from Manila over to Cagayan De Oro. The dollar equivalency is $651. Wow. Even our carryon baggage was fined due to the fact that it weighed more than 7 kg.

   Later we found out that the airlines may have duped us, few locals we told that story to had heard of this policy, some think because we were Americans the airlines took advantage of us. I guess we will never know, for sure we will do things differently next time we come here. Luckily we each brought extra money in just such an event happened. Some of our sponsors had given us money for this. I thank God we had the money available.

   Due to the fact that we had to bring lots of supplies; all my dental instruments and all the crafts plus extra clothing for the girls as well as our own, we each had two suitcases and two of us had three suitcases for a total of 13 bags, not counting our carrying bags.

   Despite the fact that I don’t see anyone here at the airport to greet us, I don’t panic. As with the airport in Guatemala, non-passengers are not allowed near the exit but are expected to wait at the outside gate. So I leave the rest of the gang in the airport and after making sure I can leave the airport and get back in, I begin my search. I push past all the men trying to get me to hire them to help with my luggage and venture out to find someone, hopefully Michael, the director of Nehemiah House.

   Once outside, I call out to the crowd in my loudest voice, “Michael!” Sure enough he is there in the crowd, raises his hand and we connect. Bennie is with him, another missionary.

   Nehemiah House is run by an organization called Youth with a Mission, the acronym being YWAM. They operate internationally training missionaries and placing them around the world running orphanage. All the people who work here have to raise all their own funds for daily living and are not paid. Bennie is a local man with a wife and family and he is one of these. He lives in a small hut there on the property, his family live in another village. He goes to be with them intermittently. The missionaries are ordinary people who often devote their lives to the work of the house and do so voluntarily. Some commit one to two years at a time. I admire them greatly.

   On the drive to Nehemiah House, Michael tells us more about Nehemiah House. Michael is the director and overseer. Michael and his wife Tating have lived there 15 years. They have two boys age seven and 13. They don’t live at the house; they have a place just down the road.

   Nehemiah House is staffed with five women who do live there and stay there 100 percent of the time. The house is not really an orphanage, all the girls there share a sad commonality; they are all victims of sexual abuse. Some of them are rape victims, usually violent in nature, they were raped at gun or knifepoint and they know not their abusers.

    One of the girls there is just 17 years old and has a two year old son as a result of incest from her grandfather. Once the crime has been reported, the girls are taken out of the house and placed in Nehemiah House for one to two years while the girls are getting counsel and the case is being prosecuted. Because many of the girls are in danger of retribution from family members of the accused, sometimes their own family members, they are in protective custody.

   Often they are moved out of the city where they live and their whereabouts are unknown to their families for their protection. Some are under police protection. The house can take a total of 30 girls but currently there are just 19 there.

   Nehemiah House is not far from the airport so after a 40 minute drive we arrive. As I suspect, the dwellings in this city resemble those that I have seen in Guatemala. They are very primitive structures.  They are made of scraps of wood, metal or clay blocks. The roofs are the same. Few homes we see are like those we see in the states.

   The poor are the majority here. The river is muddy yet the people who live along here use it for bathing and washing laundry. In some areas as in Guatemala, they will use this water to drink after they crudely filter it with sand or rocks. The children we see are scantily dressed, some not at all, usually the very young. Few wear shoes. We are the minority, the white ones, and everyone stares at us as we drive by. They call the Americans “Joe”.

   The metal gate entrance to the house has graffiti all over it. Michael tells us that it is useless to try to clean it up or paint over it. The gangs here would just re-create their mess again. Once the gate is open, all the girls come running to greet us. The youngest of the group is Genevieve. She is just seven years old. She is so sweet and loving in nature.

   About half of them are very shy and introverted (rightly so). The others are very outgoing and forthright, coming up to us and hugging us, asking questions and eager for our shared time together to begin.

   We look and feel totally spent but our wonderful greeting brings us refreshment. Even though it is still early morning here in the Philippines, we need a nap to try to erase some of the jetlag. So after some short introductions and a quick bit to eat, we find out bunk beds, start unpacking and resting. Later today we will begin our “work.”


Team Missions’ members are pictured eating breakfast on the morning of their arrival. The meal consisted of hot dogs, rice, eggs, and mangos. Clockwise from left are Luke Manifold, Kathy Gadowa, Don Judkins and Gwen Tuning.


Gwen Tuning oversees a painting project at Nehemiah House.


Rosalie and Mai Mai, two Nehemiah House residents, wash their laundry.


Floramae and Mejoy enjoy blowing bubbles outside Nehemiah House.